The Department of Health and Society is pleased to announce the winner of our first Black Student Excellence Award.
Third Year Bsc Neuroscience and Health Policy student Abigail Ralph was the recipient of the $600 prize, which is awarded to a student based on academic excellence and community involvement.
Abigail has taken part in a number of community-based activities since she graduated from North Albion Collegiate Institute in Rexdale, Etobicoke, where she was student council president. She is currently a co-investigator of the Vaccine Equity Project, which focuses on inequities in vaccine distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic in the Rexdale and Jane & Finch area, with an emphasis on Black and racialized communities. She also acts as a research program coordinator for the “Don’t Count Us Out!” project, which focuses on health disparities in Canadian Black Nova Scotian communities exacerbated by COVID-19.
“I was really excited to receive the award,” said Abigail. “I knew I would be a competitive applicant, but it’s still a nice surprise.”
Abigail was inspired to get involved in community work during her high school years. “Other schools would give us a bad rap for being a low-income school,” she said. “As an athlete, I would often go to tournaments in different schools and areas, I realized that these other schools in ‘better neighborhoods’ had so many more opportunities than us.”
“I wanted to show that just because we were from a lower-income area that doesn’t mean we’re not ambitious, intelligent, or that we don’t have goals.”
Abigail is active in a number of other extra-curricular activities, including as the executive coordinator and founder of the MOR Initiative Award for Black Students in STEM, which assists Black students from low socio-economic backgrounds in Toronto with University applications, as Undergraduate researcher at the Fehling’s lab for neural repair, where she is conducting research on response to cervical spinal cord injury, and as an external affairs coordinator for the Caribbean Studies Student Union (CARSSU).
Abigail’s advice to new students is to get involved in extra-curriculars, research opportunities and the campus community. In addition, she advises students to attend office hours. “There’s a lot of support,” she said “DHS is doing well in hiring professors who reflect the student body, and I was happy this semester to see more Black professors, specifically black women. I hope other departments follow suit.”